By Jennie Jones Giles
A line of tall trees had deepened the shadows on a hot July afternoon as a truck rumbled down a dirt road through the woods.
Charles Hill and Larry Shipman had spent the day clearing brush for the Lake Summit Corporation. They drove to a spot behind the Lake Summit dam to dump a load of limbs and brambles before heading home.
Hill was turning the one-ton truck around when something in the tall grass caught Shipman’s eye.
“There’s a window dummy,” Shipman said.
“If it is, there’s another one,” Hill replied, “and this one’s got feet.”
On that otherwise uneventful Friday afternoon, July 22, 1966, the two men got out to take a closer look at the gruesome find.
‘Teens in town’
About the same time, teens of Henderson County were getting ready to head for downtown Hendersonville.
Some local kids met friends at the Teen Canteen and putt-putt golf course across from Hendersonville High School’s Dietz Field. Others waited at the drive-up window at the Hasty Tasty in the rock building at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Church Street.
After gorging on cherry Cokes, burgers and fries, they might have headed for the movies at the Carolina Theatre on Main Street, where a ticket was $1 and a box of popcorn cost 15 cents.
Others waited for sundown before pulling into a parking spot at the Joy or Hendersonville outdoor drive-in theaters.
“Plus, you could stay and watch the movie as many times as you wanted for the one purchase price,” said Donna Patterson Stover, who was 14 in 1966 and eagerly anticipating her freshman year at East Henderson High School.
There was also the other American pastime in the era of V-8 engines and 35-cent-a-gallon gas. Teenagers piled into cars for the traditional cruise up and down Main Street, wide and straight then, before city leaders changed it to a serpentine design. Cars lined bumper to bumper made the slow circuit from the Hasty Tasty, turning right onto Main.
“The Casuals, a local band, was just getting started then,” Stover said. “A lot of the favorite music was old rhythm and blues and soul music. The teenage canteen was on Church Street and putt-putt golf was next door. That was the thing to do on Saturday night, along with dragging Main and spending time at Brock’s and Hasty Tasty.”
Most of the teen-agers were driving the family car, some cruised in their 1950s pickups. Convertibles drew looks of envy. Volkswagen Bugs were viewed as fun. The Ford Mustang staked its claim as the new hot car.
With the windows down, the Beatles’ Paperback Writer competed with the Supremes’ You Can’t Hurry Love. No local radio stations played rock music in the evenings, so the kids tuned to radio stations from as far away as Chicago.
WHKP radio announcer Doug Brooks had a promotion that summer called the Rat Fink Club on his afternoon rock’n’roll radio show.
“I still have my rat fink,” Stover said. “Those couple of hours after school were the only exposure we had to the top 100 hits, unless your radio could pick up the Knoxville station late in the evening after all of the other AM stations had signed off.”
‘A great time to be young’
As they passed the U.S. 176 intersection and continued on U.S. 25 South, cars in the cruise line either turned left into Brock’s Drive-in or right into the Skyline Drive-in, where country music was king.
Punch the button on the curbside intercom boxes and milkshakes, made with real ice cream, were delivered to the car, along with thick juicy burgers and large fat fries or onion rings.
Hamburgers cost 35 cents, but for 65 cents a Big Jumbo could be ordered, recalled Terry Brock, who worked at his family’s restaurant in 1966. Brock’s was famous for banana splits and cherry lemon Upper 10s and its secret chili recipe.
It was the era of the Beatles and their bad-boy rivals, the Rolling Stones. Bob Dylan’s Just Like A Woman, from the “Blonde On Blonde” album, had just been released.
“The summer of ’66 was a great time to be young,” said Robin Farquhar, executive director of the Flat Rock Playhouse, who was 16 and a rising junior at Hendersonville High. “We loved the British invasion and played a lot of songs by the Beatles, the Kinks and The Who. Back then we all wanted to be rock and rollers and were playing for anyone that would listen.”
Farquhar spent that summer singing in the rock’n’roll band the Lost Souls with four classmates.
Simon and Garfunkel brought folk to Top 40 charts with I Am A Rock. Wild Thing by the Troggs was running close to I Saw Her Again by the Mamas and Papas in popularity. Young people could not get enough of the supposedly suggestive lyrics of Louie, Louie.
The Temptations, Supremes and Four Tops were top Motown picks. Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings ranked high on the country charts, where You Ain’t Woman Enough and The Bottle Let Me Down were perched on top.
The place to buy them all was Tempo Music Shop.
The place to go
Teens gathered at the Main Street shop on Saturdays, thumbing through the bins of 45s. Woolworth’s and Crest’s 5 and 10 on Main carried a few 45s and LPs. So did Elmer Neill’s Joy Record and Hi-Fi near the Joy Drive-in on U.S. 176.
But that’s not where teens went to buy rock and Motown.
For music, Tempo was the teen-agers’ choice. The shop carried rock’n’roll, rhythm and blues, Motown and jazz.
“I was 14 the summer of the murders and remember thumbing through the bins of 45s at Tempo, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Leslie Gore, the Temptations and the Supremes,” Stover said. “I spent most of my allowance there.”
Not only did the young people fill the store; Tempo was also a popular shopping place for blacks at a time when integration had just begun in Henderson County.
A mysterious backseat duo
The week of July 22 was different. The manager of the shop had been missing since that Monday, July 18.
Charles Glass, 36, a man every music lover in town recognized, had last been seen Sunday afternoon.
Tempo owner Vernon Shipman, 43, had not shown up at his job at the N.C. Employment Security Commission all week.
Clues to their whereabouts were virtually non-existent.
Calvert Hunt Jr., who had worked part-time at the music shop for years, told Tempo employees that he had seen Glass and Shipman on Sunday afternoon. Shipman was driving his 1962 Ford Fairlane on Little River Road toward Flat Rock. Glass was in the front seat with him. Two other people were in the back seat, Hunt said, one of several Sunday afternoon sightings that deepened the mystery.
Either Monday or Tuesday – 40 years later people’s memories disagree on the exact day – Shipman’s father, Harley, had stormed into the Times-News on Sixth Avenue West demanding that editor Jimmy Fain stop the presses and replate the front page.
A picture of Vernon needed to be placed on the page. He was missing and he never stayed away without telling someone, Harley Shipman told Fain. Vernon had not been home since Sunday. He must be dead, the distraught father said.
Overhearing the conversation, Ronnie Hollifield, circulation manager, walked up. He told Fain that he had seen Shipman on Sunday afternoon, driving on Evans Road toward Crab Creek Road. Charles Glass was in the car, too, on the passenger side of the front seat.
A man and woman were in the back seat.
On Wednesday, four days since the two men were last seen or heard from; a missing person report was officially filed with the Hendersonville Police Department.
Two well-known men in the small tightly-knit mountain community had vanished. A search was launched.
Shipman’s car was found about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday not far from his home, on a dirt road that ran parallel to the railroad tracks between Seventh Avenue East and Ray Avenue.
The pair’s disappearance was definitely suspicious, people throughout the community were saying. Foul play was becoming a real possibility, Police Chief Bill Powers told a Times-News reporter for a story about the missing men.
While families and teens packed up beach blankets, volleyballs and sand buckets at the Laurel Park Lake and others finished supper and headed out for Sunday night church, Glass and Shipman had vanished.
The mystery ended Friday night, five days later.
“I could smell them just as quick as I got out of the truck,” said Hill, the young man who stumbled on the bodies while dumping brush. “I can still remember the taste and smell. I could never get that taste out of my mouth.”
Before midnight Friday, telephone wires burned with the news: Rescue Squad members and law enforcement officers were gathering in large numbers at a spot near the Green River.
The music on Main Street stopped as the teens whispered the news from car to car.
The three figures in the tall grass were not mannequins. They were bodies.
Glass and Shipman had been found, and along with them an unknown woman.
In a grassy clearing off North Lake Summit Road one puzzle had ended. But a long mystery was just beginning.